Laboratory for Oral History and Experimental Media Event Series

Situating the Symbiotic Planet: A Workshop on Lynn Margulis in Science, Culture, and Society

09:30 - 16:30
Harnack-Haus, 14195 Berlin, Germany

The event is open to members of the MPIWG and the wider scholarly community in Berlin. Due to space restrictions, please register by 30 June at The workshop is in-person only.

In the age of microbiome research, Earth system science, and the Anthropocene, American cell and microbiologist Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) has become the poster child of science studies and adjacent art-science worlds. Scholars such as Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, and Isabelle Stengers have each found inspiration in Margulis’s work for their own conceptions of human-nature relations and onto-epistemological models, thereby turning her into a celebrity, a witness, and an occasional prophet.

This engagement and fascination calls for deeper scholarship from historians of science and knowledge. To understand Margulis’s significance as a person and a persona, this workshop will explore questions surrounding her legacies and invocations, her fame versus her outsider status, and her publication strategies and public appearances, as well as her interest in science studies. Issues of gender and power will also be examined. Historicizing her work and its reception depends on understanding the changing relationship between the molecular life sciences, evolutionary biology, and the earth and environmental sciences as well as the impact of cybernetics. At the same time, we need to attend to societal changes during and after the Cold War—such as new social movements and the rise of neoliberalism—which offer important contexts for understanding these recent scientific developments.

To explore these and other related dimensions, we have invited early career scholars (PhD candidates and postdocs) for a workshop to participate in both a close engagement with Margulis and make contributions that situate her work and life within its prehistories and social and political contexts.


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